Kara no Kyoukai 1: Fukan Fuukei

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Kara no Kyoukai review Part 1

Kara no Kyoukai (The Boundary of Emptiness), is a franchise that has been around for over a decade, yet a number of anime and manga fans have probably not heard of it until now. Created in 1998 by Nasu Kinoko and Takeuchi Takashi (who later went on to form TYPE-MOON), the first five chapters of the story were released on their doujin website in 1998, whilst the final two chapters were released in August 1999 at Comiket 56. The series proved to be popular with a number of people, and was eventually picked up by Kodansha for commercial publication in 2004. The first movie, Fukan Fuukei (Overlooking View), premiered across Japan on December 1st 2007, with a number of follow ups already in production for release over the next two years.

Now fans of  Shingetsutan Tsukihime will be find many things in Kara no Kyoukai familiar, not the least of which is the fact that they are both created by TYPE-MOON. The stories have several parallels within them, which has led to the latter series being considered an alternate version of the former, or at the very least, set in the same world.

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All those TVs and there's still nothing on.

The anime adaptation was released as a series of seven movies, each of which run for approxiamtely 50 minutes. Each individual film features a different time period, with no two consecutive movies following in any kind of chronological order. Unlike Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu though, this seemingly out-of-sequence airing is not simply because of a whim on the part of the producers. The non-consecutive ordering is how the series should be portrayed, and the anime has stayed faithful to that method.

The first movie,  Fukan Fuukei (Overlooking View), is surprisingly good in terms of its story. Although there is very little character development, events move along at a nice pace and the tense nature of the plot is very much apparent to the viewer. The movie is somewhat predictable in though, but this doesn’t really detract from one’s enjoyment of it as an individual episode, nor does it impinge on one’s enjoyment of future installments.

One thing to note is that the series subtitle, “The Garden of Sinners”, is actually very appropriate. The first movie does a good job of highlighting the fact that the world in which the story takes place is no heaven by any measure, and that not everything is as simple as people may at first believe.

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If we can't repair your old arm, we'll just build you a new one!

Ufotable have garnered quite a name for themselves as an imaginative yet quirky studio, and with titles like Futakoi Alternative and Coyote Ragtime Show under their belts, it’s difficult to fault that perception. Like many of their productions the animation style in Fukan Fuukei is distinctive, especially during the action sequences, and fans will notice the studio’s trademark claymation sequences at the beginning of each movie (normally they’re at the end of an episode). The animation is generally very well done, and what may seem like blips in the animating sequence are often purposeful additions that prevent the show from becoming too “clinical” with its visuals. That said, the characters are taken directly from the original designs for the novels, which is a little unfortunate as it means that Ufotable were unable to allow their eccentric creativity to shine through. Fans of Tsukihime will also notice some surprising similarities between the two anime, not just facially, but in certain actions too.

The backgrounds and backdrops are generally excellent. The maze-like structure of the Fujo building is very well depicted, as are the various outdoor scenes and indoor scenes. The CG has been almost seamlessly incorporated into the show, and the smoothness of the CG adds to the effect of the action sequences.

One area where the movie manages to stamp its mark is with the sound effects. These are often very clear and well used, fading to background noise when necessary.The effects used during the action sequences are sometimes sharp in comparison to the rest of the movie, whilst the effects used to promote an atmosphere of tension are a little lacking. The music sometimes lacks a little subtlety, but generally serves to heighten the effect of a particular scene, adding a sense of foreboding in to sequences that need that extra “oomph”.

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Why do creepy floating women always wear white?

The voice actors are well used, with the three main characters being decently portrayed. Sakamoto Maaya, who plays the role of Ryougi Shiki, brings a certain edge, a certain chill, to her voice at the times when it’s necessary, something which adds to the overall effect of the character. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast don’t really have much scope to display their skill, and this barrier pretty much destroys any hope of decent character development.

Ironically, a fair assessment of the individuals in the movie is difficult due to the run time (about 50 minutes), and that may actually be a good thing. Because of its length there is no real development to each character, and since the plot doesn’t seem to account for this aspect anyway, the hope is that there will be substantials inroads into this are in future installements.

Which is why I’m withholding a final opinion until the end of the series.

As I mentioned before, there are certain parallels with Shingetsutan Tsukihime, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the characters. Ryougi Shiki doesn’t just share her name with Tohno Shiki of Tsukihime, she also has the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception” (and she looks a bit like Ciel). Likewise, Aozaki Touko shares her name with Aozaki Aoko, and both help the person named Shiki in their respective shows (they also seem to know more than they let on as well).

In general the characters are well done, but they lack a certain depth which will hopefully be rectified as the series continues.

Overall this is a very enjoyable movie. The pacing of the story, the tension of various scenes, and the semi-combative relationship of the characters, all serve to raise this above the often substandard fare around. The fact that the series is being done as individual movies is also a plus, as each story arc is completed within a nice timeframe. The movie may be a little predictable, but as a first offering it is very impressive nonetheless.

Some people may not enjoy the first movie for a number of reasons (it has no real romance, no character development, no sequential plot, etc), but personally, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Kara no Kyoukai Part 2 >>

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